2020 April: Self-Estrangement

I feel glad to have written the first chapter of my thesis – at least, the first draft of a chapter – and so feel I have at least started trying to express the more theoretical parts of the project. This chapter focuses on some of the historical uses of the role of the ‘spiritual medium’ as a metaphor for the artistic process and authorship. From there it expands into a discussion of linguistic, or culturally unconscious intuitions about the ‘topology’ of personhood, or, various ways in which the person is intuited as a spatial entity (having ‘interiority’, for example).

Since the start of the PhD, I presented to my colleagues twice on two different themes – one of those was about the author’s role as ‘medium’, accompanied by a work of mine, Pseudo, which explores that idea; the other was the performance in which I asked the audience to fill out personality tests about each of the characters I performed for them. My plan for the time being was to capture those two events, both of which were very generative moments for my research (doing things in front of others, presenting, and generally placing my ideas in public settings seems generally to generate the most formative moments of my ongoing work), into writing, as sections in my thesis. What I am finding so far, is that my artist methods are what generate my research questions, not the other way around – and that whatever I have to say from a more theoretical or abstract standpoint has already always in some way been explored in my art practice. So I am considering to write my thesis in a series of pairs; artwork & academic chapter. How I present those artworks in thesis form will be an interesting challenge in itself, but usually when I present to a public, that’s what feels most natural – using my art and theory in complementary ways in a single instance. So Pseudo, for instance, works very well in tandem with the chapter I just wrote – it is a direct exploration of just what I wrote about in that text – after the fact of the artwork (so artworks will precede theoretical chapters).

Self Estrangement Methods for Getting out of Local Mental Minima; or, ‘Thinking Outside the Box’

(Above image: Still from Part 2 of ‘Self Estrangement Methods for Getting out of Mental Local Minima; or, “Thinking Outside the Box”’. Video, 28 min. April 2020. Part 1 can be found here.)

This video opens a new avenue for me as to how I might approach art-practice-as-research. In the ‘Intelligence Debiased’ research group at Exposed Arts, we are thinking about non-human conceptions of intelligence, where my own concern as been on the intelligence of fictional characters, as well as the problematics around what we conceive as (human) intelligence in the first place. Since playing with my own personhood is an integral part of my performance practice, I decided to try out an experiment: to communicate my ‘self-estrangement’ performance method to the other artist-researchers in the group as a technique for ‘brainstorming’ or ‘thinking outside the box’, and then to see what thoughts they come up with by changing something small about themselves (voice, mannerisms, appearance…). To communicate the method to them, I made two videos – in one of them I describe the method, and in the other, I try to demonstrate it. In the second video, I am talking about ‘intelligence’ by deviating from my ‘own’ character and using an other’s temporary voice.

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